How to Cook Rice Noodles


A staple in Asian cuisine, rice noodles are often used in stir-fries, soups, and other dishes. When prepared correctly, the texture of rice noodles sits at the perfect balance of light and chewy. While rice noodles are delicious to eat, they can be difficult to work with as they are very tender. If left for too long, rice noodles can quickly become mushy. 

Don’t fret though! With proper techniques and practice, you can become an expert in cooking rice noodles. If you’re eager to know how to cook rice noodles perfectly, here’s a guide for you.

Types of Rice Noodles

Before we get to the methods and techniques on how to cook rice noodles properly, it’s important to know what kind of rice noodles you’ll be working with. This is so you’ll know which cooking process will work best in order to have a bowl of perfectly cooked noodles.

Dry Rice Noodles

Dried noodles are the most common type of rice noodles and can be found in most Asian grocery stores. Dried rice noodles are thin and round in shape and vary in length from four to 12 inches. Their name can vary from one country to another but in the US, they are simply labeled as “rice noodles” or “rice stick” noodles. There are a few kinds of dry noodles, namely:

  • Rice Vermicelli noodles – Also known as bean threads, rice vermicelli noodles are very thin, similar to angel hair pasta. They’re mostly used in salads, stir-fries, and soups. These thin rice noodles have a coarse texture and are not as smooth as other noodles which have an al dente texture.
  • Flat rice noodles – Also called rice sheets, these noodles are flat and wide, ranging from two to four inches. These are mainly used in soup dishes such as the Vietnamese pho or in a stir-fry dish like pad thai.
  • Rice flour noodles – Made from rice flour and water, these noodles are very fine and delicate and can be used in soups or stir-fried dishes.

Fresh Rice Noodles

Fresh noodles are typically found in the refrigerated section of many Asian markets. Cooked fresh rice noodles have a slightly chewy texture.

Do You Have to Soak Rice Noodles Before Cooking?

Some people think that rice noodles cook similarly to wheat noodles, often boiling the dried noodles to cook them. This method is actually incorrect as boiling rice noodles will turn them into a soggy mess. Instead of boiling, what you will want to do is to soak noodles to rehydrate them.

Rice noodles can be overcooked very easily. Soaking noodles allows them to hydrate evenly, and the heat from the pan will cook the noodles using the water that’s already in the noodles. This results in cooking the noodles evenly inside out. Let the noodles soak in room temperature water for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the brand. To know if the rice noodles were soaked long enough, the texture should be tender, pleasantly chewy, and al dente, just enough to wrap around your finger. If you are soaking rice noodles for a stir-fry dish, leave them more firm than soft.

Be careful to not over-soak the noodles. Over-soaked noodles will stick together with a gluey, gummy texture. They may also fall apart when stir-fried. 

If you’re using fresh noodles, you don’t have to soak them before adding to your stir fry as they will cook during frying. If you’re using them in a soup, you can cook the noodles directly in the broth.

Why Do You Have to Drain Rice Noodles?

Draining rice noodles is important so that they don’t turn into mush when cooked.

How to Cook Rice Noodles

The cooking methods for preparing rice noodles vary depending on the kind of dish that you want to make.

For Stir-Fry Dishes or Soups

If you’re stir-frying rice noodles for pad thai or using them in a soup, here are the steps that you’ll need to do:

  1. Add noodles in a large bowl. 
  2. Cover the noodles with lukewarm water. Allow them to soak for 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Once the noodles are partially cooked, rinse the noodles under cold water to remove excess starch and to stop the cooking process.
  4. Drain them and transfer them to another bowl or dish to prevent them from sticking together or drying out. 
  5. Add the cooked rice noodles to the stir-fry or in the hot broth at the end of the cooking process.

For Cold Noodle Dishes

Boiling water can be used to partially or fully cook the noodles for cold noodle dishes. This method is also recommended for flat rice noodles used as wrappers. 

  1. Place the noodles in a pot. 
  2. Pour boiling water over the noodles and soak them for 7 to 10 minutes. If you want chewier noodles, pre-soak the noodles in warm water until they are barely pliable. Drain, then finish cooking in boiling water for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Toss the noodles with sesame oil to prevent them from clumping together or drying out. 
  4. Add the silky rice noodles to the dish you plan on using them in.

How Long Do You Cook Rice Noodles For?

This depends on the size of the noodles and what dish you’re making with them. If you’re stir-frying thin noodles, soak them for 7 minutes or until they are soft. If you’re using flat rice noodles in a soup, soak for 10 minutes or until soft, then add to the broth.

Rice Noodle Cooking Tips

  • Rice noodles are gluten-free.
  • If you are cooking rice noodle soup, you can also blanch the noodles in hot water just enough to soften them. For example, vermicelli noodles need to be soaked for 4 to 6 minutes in hot water, while flat rice noodles need 5 to 10 minutes of soaking time in hot water for them to soften. Immediately rinse with cold water so that they don’t turn into mush.
  • If you forgot to soak your noodles and you need to cook them now, here’s an emergency solution: soak the noodles for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the size. The thinner the noodles, the shorter the soaking time. Immediately drain after soaking and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking.
  • It’s common to pair rice noodles with sauces and garnishes in Asian cooking. Some of the most popular condiments to pair with are soy sauce, fish sauce, and hoisin sauce. 
  • You can soak the noodles in advance too. Once you finish soaking them, drain them and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Don’t stir-fry too many noodles at once. If you’re cooking more than 6 ounces, cook them in separate batches so that all the noodles will get enough time to cook.

Final Note

Vietnamese pho, pad thai, fried noodles, spring rolls — these are just a couple of Asian dishes that make great use of rice noodles. Rice noodles can be sold fresh and dried and depending on what kind you have and what you plan on doing with them, the way to cook them can vary. 

They can be tricky to cook as they can turn into mush very quickly if left unattended. It’s best to practice the steps we’ve detailed above so that you get perfect rice noodles that you can use in your favorite stir-fry or soup!

Aiming to level up your cooking skills? Check out our collection of the best recipes that you can make for your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook dry pho rice noodles?

Simply rehydrate the dry pho noodles by submerging them in warm water for around 10 minutes or until they’re soft.